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Friday, 02 July 2021 11:00

Is it Coming Home?

After their historic win over Germany this week in the European Cup Finals, the England Football Team’s predicted win over Ukraine at the weekend will mean a midweek semi-final match kicking off at 8.00pm next Wednesday evening; followed by a potential final (!) on Sunday 11th July at 8.00pm. So, is it time to be planning for a rash of short-notice holiday requests and sickness absences as fans nurse their sore heads after either celebrating a momentous victory or drowning their sorrows?

Following England’s first round win over Tunisia in the 2018 World Cup, the media reported that staff absences rose by 36 percent. It’s probably a safe bet then to assume that there will be some disruption to work attendance if England progress through the European tournament. We might also find that, thanks to Covid, we have some additional factors to consider that complicate our absence management.

Employees who fail to attend work claiming to be ill can be at risk of disciplinary action up to and including dismissal if their employer has evidence that they are not actually sick. Of course the employee may well be genuinely sick, albeit that sickness is self-inflicted as a result of drinking too much the night before. So what then?

In agreeing a contract of employment, employees are committing to make themselves available for work at the times laid out within the contract. They must therefore make every effort to present themselves fit for work. Overindulging in alcohol in the evenings to the extent where it compromises attendance and/or timekeeping is clearly breaching the contract and so subjects the employee to an investigation and potentially disciplinary action.

Covid however, has gifted the errant employee a couple of get out clauses. Firstly, there’s “Working from Home”. We might see a lot more of this “scheduled-in” for post-match days where employers are allowing it; although the added productivity that has been widely attributed to WFH may be somewhat lacking on the morning after a match. Short of ringing to check or scheduling an 8.30am Zoom or Teams meeting, it may be hard to quantify whether or not someone is actually working.

The second escape route for hung-over employees is self-isolation. Whilst we’ve all been studiously following the rules around Track & Trace and workplace safety, does anyone actually ask for evidence when a staff member says that they have been pinged by the app and needs to self-isolate? Having spent months in lockdown it’s unlikely that anyone would want to self-impose isolation on themselves if they didn’t have to so we probably don’t feel the need. However, it may be seen to be an opportune excuse for the unscrupulous, hung-over worker.

There may be a temptation to let the odd “sickie” go, and make allowances for the fact that there is a major international sporting competition going on. After all, unless you have a sick-pay scheme, you don’t have to pay an employee for one day of sickness absence. The danger here however is that this sends the wrong message and could be seen as ‘custom and practice’, making it difficult to enforce any action on another occasion.

Even if a sick day isn’t taken, you might need to consider employees turning up for work still under the influence of alcohol, especially if they drive company vehicles.

We would usually point employers to the relevance of having a robust absence policy in place at this point; an obvious starting point in curbing unauthorised absences. Under the circumstances however, perhaps a different approach is more appropriate.

We have already seen a number of employers gift their staff additional time off work to help them recover from so-called Covid burn-out, so there is already a president set for gifting extra time off work. Furthermore, a memorable performance by the England team would be a welcome tonic to bolster national morale after a truly tumultuous year.

So, instead of taking a zero-tolerance approach to unauthorised absence, on this occasion, perhaps there is an option to embrace the problem and develop a strategy that will garner the respect and loyalty of your team. After all, chances are your clients and customers are going to be in a similar situation. What’s more, if England do win, there probably won’t be much work done the next day anyway.

Some ideas to consider might be to:

  • Call a company-wide holiday and shut down for the day; enforcing your right, with adequate notice, to dictate when staff take holiday days.
  • Offer a flexi-day that allowed staff to start and finish later…
  • …or just start later.
  • Draw lots, amongst those who request it, to establish who is allowed to take holiday if you are pressed for resources and need to open.

Whatever you do, ensure that you exercise fairness, equality and offer choices to all members of your team. Falling into the trap of assuming it’s just the men that want to go to the pub to watch the football could easily get you into trouble for discrimination.

Finally, don’t forget your duty of care as an employer. If it transpires that alcohol dependency or another underlying health issue exists, you’ll need to take a different approach as there may be a condition that is classed as a disability and therefore subject to treatment under the Equalities Act.

We’re here to help with employee issues like this and others, so if you need any additional support, please get in touch 01452 331331 or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Read 149 times Last modified on Friday, 02 July 2021 11:42

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